On November 19, Metrolife ran a cover story on how public toilets in Jayanagar, Gandhinagar, Majestic, Shivananda Circle, and Chamarajpet, were being used as kitchens and homes.
During a reality check, we had found scandalous details: one toilet had a huge carton of condoms stocked, leading to suspicions about what business the toilet caretakers were up to. Another had a stove, utensils and food being cooked inside one of the toilets. There were many toilets that had been converted into makeshift homes.
Based on our report, BBMP officials swung into action and cleared the toilets of kitchen utensils, beds and other material.
They initially sealed the toilets, and later opened them for public use after cleaning up the mess.
There are 613 toilets in the city, and the BBMP is now taking a count and Google-mapping them. “We don’t know what condition these toilets are in. We are in the process of inspecting them all. The Metrolife report helped us understand the situation,” says Randeep, Special Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP.
Those managing the toilets but using it for cooking, sleeping and other activities have been sacked. “The toilets will be taken up for maintenance. Even if nobody comes forward to maintain them, the BBMP has enough funds to do it,” informs Randeep.
He says toilets are a priority and the BBMP’s vision is to make Bengaluru a defecation- and street urination-free city.
What prevented the BBMP from taking up the maintenance of public toilets earlier?
The BBMP had no policy in place, and that had let to multiple agencies being involved in the maintenance. “Earlier, the operations and management of the toilets were given ad hoc. Constructing them is easy but maintaining them is the challenge. We were not clear who would run them, how much they could charge and monitor whether the public was happy with the amenity. It would some be run by private agencies and at other times pourakarmikas would come forward to take charge,” he says.
The new policy now envisaged by the BBMP, Randeep says, will address these questions. “We will ensure toilets are operational for at least 18 hours a day, and are well lit and clean. We are already on the job,” he says.
Thanks to DH story, new toilet policy coming up
The Metrolife expose has promoted the BBMP to get cracking on a toilet maintenance policy. Randeep D, special Commissioner, solid waste management, BBMP, said to the policy would outline how public toilets are run.
“Currently, they are not constructed by a single agency. They are also maintained by multiple parties,” he says. Some are maintained on public-private partnership, while others fall under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The new policy will roll out a single procedure to manage and maintain public toilets. “We have decided that the solid waste management wing of the BBMP will take public toilets under its ambit,” Randeep says.
Chee... This is still happening
A part of the men’s toilet has become a bedroom and kitchen. A blanket is used to separate the toilet from the cooking space. Even after the BBMP’s inspection, a part of the toilet continues to be used for cooking, dining, and sleeping.
It had broken commodes. A Bisleri water can was cut in the middle for use as a bucket. BBMP inspected and sealed the toilet on November 20.
The men’s toilet was cleared of gas stoves, cooking vessels and a carton of condoms. BBMP says the toilet has been back in use since November 23.
Jayanagar III Block
A huge tyre, a broken chair and other pieces of junk were stored in the women’s toilet. They were cleared by BBMP officials. The toilet has been in use since November 23.
A bed placed prominently, with household objects beside it, was proof that someone lived here. After inspection, the BBMP has removed the objects and the toilet has been in use from November 20.
The women’s toilet was used for cooking. After inspection, the utensils and a stove were removed. The toilet was sealed on November 20. The man in charge of the maintenance has been fired, BBMP says.